18 April 2018

Kofi Annan calls for cool heads on Syria

Former UN Secretary General and Graduate Institute alumnus Kofi Annan discussed escalating tensions between the United States and Russia and the UN’s role in preventing conflict at Maison de la Paix on April 12.

Interviewed by journalist Zeinab Badawi for the BBC’s HARDtalk programme, Mr Annan said “we can’t allow situations where leaders threaten war on television and on Twitter […] they have to find a way of engaging in a calm way and preferably behind the scenes. The sort of language that is being thrown around coming from leaders is really unimaginable."

Mr Annan, who served as the UN-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria in 2012, called for “cool heads and sober judgement” on Syria, warning that any miscalculation or mistake could mean “all bets are off” on the outcome.
Quizzed on the UN’s inability to prevent genocide in Rwanda and in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, Mr Annan admitted the organization had failed, saying he’d been “shattered” by the experience. “The UN is not perfect”, he emphasized, “it can be improved. But if it didn’t exist we would have to create it.”

The event, which was organised by the Graduate Institute and the Kofi Annan Foundation to celebrate Mr Annan’s 80th birthday, was broadcast on BBC World in Switzerland on 18 April, and is available to watch below.